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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Day After

The day after Indra Gandhi's assassination, I got a call from our friend, a successful entrepreneur running an embroidery factory on the outskirts of Delhi. I had recently given him professional guidance in expanding his business by adding another unit to his factory, which had just come into operation. Belonging to the Sikh community, he was scared to come out of the house that day because of the anti-Sikh disturbance in some parts of the city. He had called me to convey that till the situation calmed down he would not be able to go to the factory and had no other option but to seek my help in doing whatever I could for the safety of the factory, if there were riots in the area. He told me that he had also asked the manager of his retail store in the city to report to me at the factory and to remain with me during the difficult time. I immediately went to the factory, took necessary security steps along with the workers and the staff, and called the nearest police station to inform that since the owner of the factory was a Sikh, it could be a target of anti-Sikh rioters and requested for their preventive protection. The officer immediately responded by deputing two armed cops to remain on duty near the factory as long as it was required. All measures taken for safety of the factory, but the retail store manager had still not reported.

As was anticipated, a mob of rioters, shouting anti-Sikh slogans, came marching towards the factory compound. I was shocked to see some of them stopping to torch a house on the way, after bolting it from outside, with the obvious intention to burn the occupants inside alive. I asked the cops on duty near the factory gate, to please go and save their lives, but they preferred to look the other way, and let the rioters do whatever they wanted to do. They even had the audacity to advise me to go home and have a good sleep. It became clear from their attitude that they would do nothing to protect the factory from those rioters, if instead of returning from the house on fire they headed towards us. Exactly the same happened. The two cops did not challenge them at all when they charged towards the factory, obviously knowing that it belonged to a Sikh. As soon as they came closer, I instantly recognized their leader, a trade union activist whom I knew well since my first employment where besides other duties I also dealt with union matters. He too recognized me and warmly responded to my greeting. I pleaded with him not to torch the plant as that would throw so many workers out of work. He listened to me, as I had listened to him once and got all the demands he had made on behalf of the workers granted by the management. He agreed to leave the two plants, old and the new, that I had helped to set up, unharmed.

“The owner must thank his stars for your presence here that saved his factory from total destruction, on which we were determined. To give him the message that Sikhs must be punished for what they did, we will only torch his office, especially the chair on which he sits.” And they set the office on fire.

Not much damage was done. The fire was quickly extinguished with the help of workers after the rioters returned. Our friend, the owner, was very happy and grateful that his factory was safe, and the workers were the happiest as their jobs were intact. But there was one person who was not at all pleased with what I had done that day to save the factory. It was the retail store manager who was to join me at the factory that morning. He was cross with me for coming to the factory during the day of anti-Sikh disturbances.
“I had purposely avoided to be present at the factory that day. In fact, I wished the owner was there at the factory when the rioters came, and he had met the same fate as hundreds of other Sikhs who did not survive the killings. We could have then occupied the factory and run it as our own, like so many other Sikh establishments had been taken over by their employees after their owners had been eliminated.” He said in a complaining tone as if I had caused him a big loss by my presence in the factory on the fateful day.

I was shocked and wondered how wicked and mean a man could be. I was sad for our friend who had trusted such a harmful man for so long. And alerted him on the sinister intentions of his store manager, before he did anything devilish to harm him.


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